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Iowa Anti-Doping Test Will Pull Hair From Fastest Horses

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Carl T. Bergstrom
Iowa is the first state to test horses' hair after races. Oklahoma and a few other states require pre-entry testing before a horse is allowed on the track.

The top finishers at Quarter Horse races this weekend will have to give up a hair or two to show they were racing clean. The new protocol at Prairie Meadows in Altoona is an attempt to rid the industry of performance enhancing drugs.

Blood and urine tests were performed on the horses in the past, according to Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association president Tom Lepic, but hair provides a longer record.

“Hair testing goes back about six months,” Lepic said. “We can see what trainers have used and make sure they’ve been using what they should and nothing for muscle building or drugs for enhancing speed or anything like that.”

The top ten horses this weekend will qualify for a higher stakes race in two weeks, Lepic said. Twelve with the fastest qualifying times will have hair pulled from their manes and tested. If a test comes back positive for a banned drug such as the steroid, clenbuterol, the trainer’s winnings will be revoked and the horse will be banned from racing until follow-up tests come back clean.

“It’s another way to make sure that we protect horses,” Lepic said. “It’s another way to make sure we protect the jockey. And finally it’s a way to make sure we protect the betting public.”

Iowa is the first state to test hair after races, Lepic said, although a few others such as Oklahoma require pre-entry testing before a horse is allowed on the track. Testing will happen without prior notice at six events throughout the Iowa Quarter Horse season, which ends in October. There will also be random testing in the horse barns at those events.

The program does not involve Thoroughbreds, although that segment of the racing industry has come under pressure to put stronger anti-doping controls in place.